Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hitting the Coast

I finally made it over to the Pacific Coast today, but not in a very dramatic fashion. I rode through the town of Watsonville in a dense fog, so I couldn't really see that much. There seemed to be a lot of industrial buildings on the ocean side of town, and then a bunch of agriculture beyond that. This was my first time on the Pacific Coast Bike Route, which I followed trying to get to a beach and the ocean. That didn't work out too well, so eventually I just ended up cutting over based on directions from google maps, which didn't work out either. The directions took me through a gated community, where I had to explain what I was doing to a local to get in, and then I had to drag my bike across a bit of dunes to get to the water (a real pain with a fully loaded bike).

Finally I got to the water, and the fog lifted a bit so I could see up and down the coast for a little ways, but still not a nice beach day. I did see a seal in the water though, which I haven't seen before. After taking a nice long break I headed back inland to the Pacific Coast Route and turned south.



Monday, October 29, 2012

Killing time

I haven't done a whole lot in the past week or so, just killed a lot of time. While the break is nice, the main reason for the pause is because I am waiting to hear back from a potential employer. They want to hire me, but there have been some snafus regarding the insurance company. I have been trying to schedule most of my days so I can be near a pay phone at some point in the day to call them and find out any updates. It's even worse since they are on the east coast, so I am dealing with a three hour time difference as well.

At least it fits in with my modified LNT motto. "Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints, kill nothing but time."

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Yosemite National Park

Today was another National Park day. I spent the first half of the day just getting into the park, coming from the small town of Fish Camp, roughly 35 miles from the main valley. Several good climbs along the way, and pretty cold temperatures. It was supposed to be roughly 15-20 degrees tonight, with rain/snow the next day.

I decided to skip the side trips to some sequoias, since I have already seen a bunch, and spend more time in the valley. There are several large rock formations along the valley, and usually some good waterfalls as well. Unfortunately it was very dry, so a lot of the waterfalls either weren't flowing, or were considerably diminished from their spring grandeur.

The diminished water levels actually made one of the waterfalls even better though. There was a small waterfall that is known for being blown around by the wind on the way to its bottom. Since there was a lot less water flowing through it, the waterfall didn't actually even get down to the bottom before the wind dispersed it. It was cool to see a waterfall that kept changing back and forth as the wind gusted.

Another water feature was Mirror Lake, but it was entirely dry. Otherwise it is supposed to have a nice reflection of Half Dome, one of the most prominent rock formations. One side of the park is actually closed to vehicles, so I was able to ride around on my bike with just a bunch of pedestrians and other bikers on rental bikes.

On the way out of the park I met two Swiss touring bikers, who were headed into the park and then towards Las Vegas. They didn't realize the weather conditions that were coming up, since they were going over a 10,000+ foot pass on the day of rain and snow. They were still going for it after I mentioned this, but a little bit more cautiously.


Friday, October 19, 2012

Slime, it's a wonderful thing

This morning I spent a bit of time fixing a slow leak in my front tire from yesterday. It was actually a very involved process. I had Slime in my rear tire, but I had also bought a puncture resistant tire, which was a replacement for my rear tire. When I started both tires were the same size, but after Capitol Reef my rear tire is a bit wider.

So the process involved removing the front tire that was flat and removing the rear tire, which had slime in it and no flats. I moved the slimed tire to the front because it was a mediums size that could fit either tire. Then I put the larger puncture resistant tube in the rear, because it wouldn't fit the front. After both tubes were in place I was ready to go.

Then, in the evening after setting up camp I saw something sticking out of my front tire. It was the back of a thorn, which I yanked out, to a rushing of air and a bit of green slime. I panicked for a bit, but then realized I had to spin the tire to redistribute the slime, since the hole was on the top half of the tube. A few spins later and no more air noises, and I don't think I'll even need to repump the tire since I fixed it quickly enough.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Kings Canyon National Park

Today was a very cold morning so I didn't really get started until around ten. I got into the park pretty quick since I had camped just outside the border. I stopped by the visitor center and asked for recommendations and info.

My first stop was the Grant grove, which contains one of the largest trees, the largest by width. There was also a cool dead tree that had been hollowed out sown the middle and fallen over. Part of the trail actually went right down the middle of the tree and out the other side. A bit like the tree in yosemite that had the road going through the base of the trunk, which fell over years ago.

The second stop was a viewpoint called Panoramic Viewpoint. There was a two and a half mile road that gained a thousand feet, and then a short hike to get up to the viewpoint. The viewpoint looked out over all of the major peaks and canyons, and it was a nice preview of the park.
After doing the climb up to the viewpoint I decided that I didn't feel like doing any of the other climbing in the park which would have amounted to more than a mile and a half. Instead I decided to just leave my bike at the visitor center and hitch out and back, since it was a dead end road anyways.

I got a ride from a Russian family that I had met in Grants Grove and at the viewpoint. I had mentioned I was going to hitch when I talked with them but they already had four people in their car so I didn't ask them. Instead they made room for me and we sat three in the back seat.

Greg and Anastasia were a younger couple, and Greg's parents, Alex and Kate had come to visit them for a vacation. The younger couple had actually just finished hitching across Canada, which is why they were extra accommodating to help me.

We went down into the park together and stopped at most of the major attractions to see them and take pictures. There were a couple of nice waterfalls and a lot of good views. They were staying at the end of the park in a campground, so they left me at the roadside to try to hitch back to the top. They promised me that if they saw me on the way back the next day they would pick me up.
I wasn't waiting more than half an hour before an older British couple picked me up. They had spent the day going further into the park towards a backcountry waterfall, and had only seen one other person on their trip. They took me back up to the bike, and I had enough light left to make it out of the park and most of the way down the mountain into warmer areas to camp.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Sequoia National Park

This morning I had a large climb into the park, from 1000 feet to over 7000 feet. A large portion of that was done on the park entrance road which was a very narrow mountain road with a lot of steep switchbacks. It was relatively early in the morning, so traffic wasn't very bad. It was still a tiring climb with a lot a of breaks.

Probably the best part of the climb was that there was a mile long section of construction. While the actual construction was pretty annoying it was still nice because they only let traffic through once an hour. After I got through the construction I had an hour long period that there were no cars coming up behind me. Since it was still early in the morning no one was headed out of the park either, so I has the entire road to myself. I road down the middle of the road, still climbing, but less steeply. At that point the road was through a nice forested area with a lot of large ponderosas and a few sequoias mixed in.

By the time I got to the visitor center I had traffic passing me again, but I wanted to take a break anyways and do a little bit of exploring in the area. There was a small meadow surrounded by sequoias, since it provided enough water and sunlight for the trees to grow.

I continued on my way along the road to get to a few other groves of trees, especially the really big ones, like the Sherman tree, which is the largest in the world. Finally I got through the park to an area of national forest where I could camp for the night before I continue on my way to Kings Canyon tomorrow.


Monday, October 15, 2012

2000 Miles

Today I hit the 2000 mile mark, lost more than a mile in elevation, burned half my brake pads, and got invited into a strangers home.

The mile in elevation was mostly between Camp Nelson and Springville, where I basically fell out of the Sierras. Lots of steep hairpin turns and no should. I had to constantly brake to make it around the turns. It wore my brake pads down a lot, to the point where they were squawking horribly when I got to town.

I had previously sent a warmshowers request to a host in town, but I hadn't been able to check email since then. I found out he wasn't able to host, so I was sitting in the middle of town trying to figure out where I was going to sleep and where the closest bike shop was to get new brakes.

That was when Nancy drove by and asked me if I needed anything. I explained what was happening, and she offered to let me sleep at her house for the night. She and her husband had done a few bike tours, and were already having a guest over anyways. I ended up camping on their lawn, since the guest bed was already taken. I also got my bike fixed up, it turned out to be a few slivers of metal stuck in the pad that were doing the worst of the squeaking, so I didn't even need to go to the bike shop.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Lost and Found

I have found a whole bunch of stuff on the side of the road so far. Some of it's even useful. Aside from the standard cans, bottles, and car parts, here's a list of what I've found so far.

Digital camera (working) that I sold on eBay
Broken digital camera that I threw away
Old solar panel with broken adapter that I sold on eBay
Working iPhone with cracked screen. I tried to contact the owner but so far no luck
Two broken iPods that I took the batteries from
Drivers license and national parks pass, which I mailed back to the owner
More than a dozen popped bicycle tubes, none of which were the right type for my bike
Two adjustable crescent wrenches
One leatherman


Today was an absolute nightmare. The road that I slept on last night started getting traffic way to early, well before sunrise. I got into town early hoping to be able to take care of everything and head right back out. Unfortunate things didn't work out that way at all.

The library didn't open for several hours so I had to wait on that to start the day. When they did finally open they didn't have wifi. I asked to use a computer there to get online and they made me go through the process to get an actual library card, rather than just use a guest account.

When I finally got online I looked at the town map for a bike shop and a grocery. The closest thing they had for either was a kmart. I did end up checking the kmart for inner tubes, which they did have, just not in the right size. Instead I decided to try out a bit of "slime" which is supposed to clot out leaks in tires.

Next stop was the post office, and three different people told me three different directions to get there, all in different places.

When I finally got ready to leave town I found out that bikes are prohibited on the freeway once you get passed town. Legally this is only allowed if there is a suitable nearby alternative route, so I spent some time riding around looking for that alternative. I didn't find anything so I went back to the library and got back online to get directions. The new route took me a ways out of the way and onto some private roads, etc, so I'm not sure it was any better. Halfway through that route put me back on the freeway, with more "no bicycles" signs. This time I asked some locals, who said to just go for it, and it wasn't a problem to ride the highways.

I rode the highway to the next exit and got off there, again where there was supposed to be an alternate route. This time the back roads involved an extra 1000 ft climb, and then dropping down that distance on an unmarked unlabeled gravel road at probably 15% grade. I had to stop several times to give my hands a break because they were cramping from holding the brakes down. I was also skidding and fishtailing the whole way down, which was exciting. Once that whole descent was finished I was right back on the freeway. Fortunately that was right where I wanted to be, since I could pick up a different north south route from adventure cycling that passed through the area.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


I came across the PCT today. I knew it had to be coming up somewhere close but I wasn't sure exactly where. Then I looked up as I was climbing a hill and there were two triangular signs indicating the national scenic trail. Unfortunately bikes are not allowed on the PCT so I couldn't ride anywhere. I did still stop and walk a little ways sown the trail and took a few pictures. The trail in that area was an easement through the wind farm so there wasn't a whole lot there.

On one side of the road there was a small water cache with a town map and a list of trail angels in the town of Tehachapi. I filled up one of the water bottles because I had extra and then went on my way. I debated contacting one of the trail angels in town for a place to stay but decided to leave that for hikers only.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Blown tubes

By this point I have almost gotten used to having to change out tubes at least once a day, if not more. Usually both tires have been flat when I wake up. What I have been doing lately is just pumping them back up and hoping for slow leaks. Sometimes this works fine and I'll only have to repump once. Sometimes they go flat again within a mile or so. This morning I decided to start fresh, with a new tube that I had bought as a replacement back in Hurricane, UT. I had bought it at walmart, where it was the only 700 size tube they had. However it was only supposed to fit a width from 25 to 32, so I had to use it on my front tire. The tire I had bought as my rear replacement is a 35.

After replacing my front tube with the new tube I pumped it up to the recommended pressure, 50-60 psi. When that was done I checked it by hand to feel if it was good to go, and then set it aside on the ground. As soon as I put it on the ground I heard a pop and hiss and the tire deflated. Worse than that, after taking it apart again I saw a good two inch gash where the tube had split down the middle. This had nothing to do with any punctures, it was just a cheap tube I guess. So now I am back to my old tubes and more patches.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Welcome to California

Today I got to the California border on I-15. I was welcomed by a state trooper, an 1800 ft climb to a town with 30 people in it, 2 punctures and 1 pinch flat. Welcome to California.

The state trooper was more curious than anything else. He also knew that I was allowed on the interstate in that area. I have heard from other cyclists that police can be less than knowledgable regarding bicycle law in their areas.

The two punctures were pretty annoying because I had changed tubes this morning due to slow leaks in both. Yesterday I had just decided to keep stopping every 10 miles or so to repump them. One of the punctures today was from a metal wire, probably from a discarded tire. All of my other punctures were from thorns, so this is a first.

The pinch flat was particularly bad because I saw the rock that caused it. I had also just stopped to check both tires and reinflate a slow leak in the front. Fortunately with the pinch flats there isn't anything stuck in the tire, and the hole in the tube is easy to find, unlike a lot of the slow leaks that have been plaguing me.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


Last spring I got. New camera, a just released Canon model with a built in gps function. I had held off buying it until the new model was released because it was supposed to fix several problems from the precious model. The only problem with the new model is that I use additional add on software called CHDK which wasn't available for the new model.

Fortunately an updated release of the software just recently came out, which works with the newer model. Basically this adds a bunch of features on to the original functionality of the camera. The major features that I have uses before are HDR auto bracketing, long exposures, and lightning motion capture. There are a bunch of other useful features, but those are the main ones I make use of.


Good day

Today started out bad but definitely got a lot better. The first couple of miles were up a steep hill, and I was still feeling the miles from yesterday. After that though I was able to cost downhill all the way to Arizona and then somewhat to Mesquite, NV.

In Mesquite I stopped by the library to take care of things online. I was planning on spending the afternoon there to avoid the heat and sun in the middle of the day. Instead something even better happened, which made up for yesterday.

While I was outside the library two locals stopped by, Dan and Dennis, on bike. Dan was interested in my travels and invited me back to his house to shower and clean up. We biked back to his house, dropping Dennis off on the way. The offered shower actually turned out even better than advertised when I left my bike in the garage and Dan drove me to the local pool. I'm not sure when the last time I was in a pool was, but it was definitely a while ago.

After getting out and drying off Dan took me to the local casino for a good hearty lunch, which was very filling. After lunch we went back to his house where I took advantage of having a good place to work and fixed all of my tubes. I've lost count, but I'm pretty sure I'm in the 10-15 flats range so far. Utah is definitely where bikes go to die.

After I was all fixed up Dan showed me a couple different routes on a map, basically trying to avoid highways and stay out of the 100+ heat for the next three days or so. He also showed me pictures of a bike trip of his own in New Zealand. Definitely on my todo list, and has been for a while now. Still not sure if I'll bike it or backpack, but at some point I'll be in New Zealand.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Bad day

Today was not a very good day. I left my warmshowers hosts early in the morning feeling very well rested, and with all of my tires repaired.

From there the day went downhill pretty quick. On the way out of town I blew out a tube, which I changed out easily enough. A few minutes later I realized that my replacement had also blown, due to the cheaper patches that I had gotten at walmart, so I had to replace it again. Then my chain started squeaking a lot even though I had just oiled it, so I added more oil.

After passing through Santa Clara I was looking for a good place to camp, since I was getting worn out from climbing hills. Before I found a good spot I wound up on an Indian reservation that had all kinds of signs about no trespassing and no stopping, etc, so I had to do another ten miles to get passed there, even though I was already worn out. Literally right after the reservation property line there was a turnout, so I set up there for the night, pretty much right at sunset.